Asking Questions of Government Figures Is Not a Crime
West Virginia state police arrested Dan Heyman, a veteran reporter with Public News Service, for repeatedly asking Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price whether being a target of domestic violence would be considered a “pre-existing condition,” allowing health insurance to be denied, under the new Republican healthcare bill.
The charge: “willful disruption of governmental processes.”
Capitol police “decided I was just too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job and so they arrested me,” Heyman told reporters (The Hill, 5/9/17). “First time I’ve ever been arrested for asking a question. First time I’ve ever heard of someone getting arrested for asking a question.”
The criminal complain against Heyman said that he was
aggressively breaching the Secret Service agents to the point where the agents were forced to remove him a couple of times from the area walking up the hallway in the main building of the Capitol. The defendant was causing a disturbance at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price.
The report of the arresting officers appears to contradict that complaint, however; the officers said they “were able to detain the defendant before he tried aggressively to breach the security of the Secret Service.”
In a statement, the ACLU of West Virginia said:
Dan Heyman was doing his job as a reporter. He was fulfilling that sacred role of the media in a democratic state of holding our elected officials accountable regarding the vital issues of the day. And for that, he was arrested.
The arrest follows the conviction last week of Code Pink activist Desiree Fairooz for “unlawful conduct” because she laughed for three seconds in a Senate conference room when Republican Sen. Richard Shelby said that then-nominee for Attorney General Jeff Sessions had an “extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law.” She faces up to a year in jail (New York Times, 5/3/17).
Please ask West Virginia to respect the First Amendment and drop all charges against reporter Dan Heyman.
Secretary Jeff Sandy
West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety
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